Friday 10 February 2023

Ski Trip Packing List

We're heading off to Whistler shortly for Struan's birthday; what else would a soon to be 9 year old want to do for their birthday!

I've just been gathering all of our ski gear together for the trip, and packing it all up, so thought now would be a good time to put together a packing list.  Nothing worse than getting to the ski hill or resort and realising you've left something essential behind.

What do I Need to Pack?

Ski Gear Packing LayoutKids Ski Gear Packing Layout

Ski Equipment

Lift Pass!

Skis *

Ski Boots * - be sure to get well fitted boots, they won't feel comfortable as such but shouldn't hurt, as the boys say they are 'ski boot comfy'. Badly fitted boots won't only ruin your day they can cause injury so spend time with your shop or hire store to be sure you have the right fit. We have also had Struan's boots heat fitted as his feet have grown and slightly changed size, but not enough for a new pair of boots so if your older boots start to pinch it is definitely worth doing. It didn't even cost us anything!

Poles *

If you are travelling by air, or new to skiing you may want to rent this equipment at the resort.

Helmet - many resorts now (quite rightly) insist on helmets for kids, but with Sarah and I having a couple of accidents over the years, I think you'd be mad not to wear a properly fitting ski helmet.  The picture below was taken shortly after an accident while wearing a helmet, it could have been so much worse without one.

Black eye ski injury

Goggles - a well fitted pair of goggles makes a huge difference, skiing blind is not fun! Sarah struggles with goggles and opted for a helmet with a built-in visor but this proved problematic in very rainy or snowy conditions when the inside got wet. We are yet to hit on the ideal goggles for Sarah but if we find that elusive beast we will be sure to let you know!

Backpack - not essential, but really handy for carrying extra layers, snacks for the kids, water etc.  I'd recommend a waterproof bag if possible - we really like our Seal Line Skylake Dry Backpack (and not just for skiing).

Ski Clothing

Ski socks - a decent pair of ski socks won't wrinkle up in your boots, and will keep your feet warm and comfortable.  Avoid cotton!

Base layers - thermal base layers are one of the most important items of ski clothing.  We're massive fans of merino wool for base layers; they're warm, comfortable, and naturally odour resistant!  Icebreaker make a great range of thermals in various weights, and I'm a massive fan of my new BN3TH full length merino bottoms. (Use the link above for $15 off your first purchase.)

Mid layer - depending on where and when you are skiing, and the weather on the day, you may need more or less mid-layers.  Quite often Innes and I don't bother with a mid layer, but Struan and Sarah almost always do.  An extra thermal, fleece or hoodie, will work just fine.  Like most outdoor activities, layering is key; so that you can add or remove layers as necessary.  This is where that backpack comes in handy!

Outer Layers - Ski pants (trousers) / Salopettes / Bibs and a Ski Jacket; waterproof and breathable are the keys here.  Outer layers designed for skiing also tend to be insulated for extra warmth.  We're big Spyder fans, and although they're pretty pricey, they are really well made and long lasting.  Their kid's range even has a 'grow with me' feature, which allows the cuffs and hems to be dropped as the kids grow.

Neck Warmer / Scarf / Buff - these contribute a lot more to keeping you warm than you would think; keeping the cold air from getting down your neck and also stopping snow from entering your jacket if you do take a head plant!  We tend to use thinner Buffs on most days (which you can use in loads of different ways) and a thicker balaclava type when it's really cold.

Gloves - I recommend two pairs of gloves, a thin inner pair for warmth and a waterproof outerlayer.


There a few other bits and bobs that aren't essential, but can make life easier (or more fun), so we think they're worth adding to your ski trip packing list.

RUX - we love our RUXs, they're perfect for carrying all of this kit!

Go Pro - if you don't have video for your favourite social site did your ski trip even happen?

Radios - we find our Rocky Talkies to be invaluable for keeping in touch on the mountain without digging around in your pockets for your phone.  We generally give one to Struan, so when he bombs off without us we can find him again!

Re-usable Water Bottle - we're all about reducing unnecessary plastic waste and if you've read any of our other posts, you'll know it has to be Yeti!

Flask - the boys love a hot chocolate to warm up, but often they come in giant servings, pop any left overs in the Yeti for later!  Also handy for your morning coffee fix while waiting in the ski lift queue.

Toe / Hand Warmers - sometimes these are necessary, especially if you are 'skiing the East', like we used to when we lived in Ottawa.

Carry Straps - the boys got these straps for Christmas from Sarah's cousin, you wouldn't believe the number of arguments they have saved about the boys carrying their own skis.  Highly recommended, in fact i'm not sure why we don't have them too!

Kids with Sklon ski carry straps

GoggleSoc - ski goggles can be expensive, protect your lenses from scratches with these great covers made from recycled bottles.  They also look cool.

Apres Ski

Canadian ski resorts are pretty relaxed, so you don't need much in the way of special clothing, you may just stay in your ski gear!  There are a few items worth adding to the list though.

Snow Boots - you probably won't want to wear your ski boots all day, so a warm pair of boots are great for heading down to the local bar or restaurant.

Toque (Hat) - a warm hat is handy for the evenings, although you can just re-purpose your Buff.

Sun Glasses (and Sunny Soc) - if you're partaking in some lunchtime or early afternoon apres, you may not want to wear your googles, but it can be bright on those patios!

Swim shorts / suit - if you're lucky enough to have a pool or hot tub for some apres ski relaxing.

Printable Ski Trip Packing List

If you'd like to print off the packing list, you can download a copy here.

Thursday 2 February 2023

Whitehorse and Dawson City, YT

We're very excited to have just started planning a trip to the Yukon and Northwest Territories, after all it is February so time to start planning Summer adventures.  All this planning reminded me that we hadn't written up our trip to the Yukon in March 2022, so here goes!

(By the way, talking about planning for Summer adventures; BC Parks are now taking camping reservations four months out, which means you can now book out to the start of June.  If you need some suggestions of parks on Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands check out our previous post.)

While most Canadians were travelling off to warmer climates for a break from the winter weather, us crazy Brits decided to spend March break in the Yukon, and it was amazing!

Yukon, previously known as Yukon Territory and more commonly known as 'the' Yukon, is the most westerly of the three Canadian territories and is also the smallest.

Getting There

We flew into the territorial capital, Whitehorse, from Victoria with Air North.  They fly a triangle route between Victoria, Vancouver and Whitehorse, briefly stopping in Vancouver on the way north.  Air North is a great small airline, with friendly staff, great customer service, and the best warm cookies on the flight!

Things to Do in Whitehorse

You really need a vehicle to get around the Yukon, so we picked up a rental at the airport and headed into Whitehorse for a night in the Best Western Gold Rush Inn.  The hotel was centrally located downtown, and let us explore the city and get our first close up view of the frozen solid Yukon River. 

Frozen Yukon River, Whitehorse

We had a great meal in the Miner's Daughter restaurant, which is attached to a lively bar known as the Dirty Northern. 

 The Woodcutter's Blanket is a cool micro brewery / bar / restaurant which is also worth a visit.

The next day, after a quick detour to Yukon Brewing for some essential supplies (beer, gin, and what has turned out to be Sarah's most worn hoodie!), we picked up some groceries and headed up to Sky High Wilderness Ranch.  

This adventure tourism business has been in operation for over 40 years, and was one of the highlights of our trip.  The ranch is only about 15 minutes drive from Whitehorse, but feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, and has amazing views over Fish Lake.  We spent three nights in the Aurora Cabin.  

The cabin sits alone on the ranch away from other guests so is very private and looks right down the length of the lake.  It is off-grid, so no electricity or running water, but the ranch provides plenty of fresh water in drums which you can heat on the woodstove and it has gas lights.  Bring a charging block if you need to charge up your devices, or just embrace the lack of connectivity.  Obviously there is no fridge or freezer, but they do provide a cooler which you can leave out on the deck to keep your food fresh, and icicles seemed like an appropriate addition to the Yukon Gin and tonic!  

The cabin has its own private wood fired sauna, with a huge picture window sharing the same panoramic views of the lake.  Unfortunately we didn't catch the elusive Aurora Borealis during our trip!  There is also a shower cubicle out in the sauna, and they provide a solar shower bag which you can hang in the sauna to warm up or fill from the pot on the woodstove in the cabin, so despite being off-grid you can still have a nice warm shower.

Dog Sledding in the Yukon

On our second day at the cabin we finally achieved one of our Canadian bucket list items with a dog-sledding trip.  One of the owners of Sky High is a veteran of the infamous Yukon Quest sledding race, and they have a great collection of friendly dogs who are clearly well looked after, some of the retired dogs may even come and visit you at the cabin!  

We did the 'Husky Rush' trip, which included some time meeting the dogs and learning about their care, before heading out onto Fish Lake for the sled trip.  Racing across the frozen lake is a surprisingly peaceful experience, the dogs really calm down when they are pulling, so all you hear is the swoosh of the sled rails over the snow and the occasional command from the experienced guide.  After the sled trip, we fed the dogs and headed up to the fire pit for hot chocolate, delicious local 'smokies'  (sort of like hotdogs but made from bison), s'mores, and a talk about the history of mushing.  It was a great experience and is highly recommended.

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

The next day we took a trip out to Yukon Wildlife Preserve.  The preserve has 12 Yukon species, including Bison, Musk Ox, Elk and Lynx, in over 350 acres of natural habitats, and is only a 30 minute drive from Whitehorse on Takhini Hot Springs Road (sadly the Hot Springs were closed for renovations while we were there).  

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

You can take a guided tour of the park in a minibus or walk around the 5km loop on foot, but the best way is definitely on the kick sleds if you are there in winter.

The Klondike Highway

Dragging ourselves away from Sky High was a challenge, but we had more of the Yukon to explore.  The following day we set off on the next leg of our trip, driving the 6 hours or so along the Klondike Highway 530km north to Dawson City.  The Klondike Highway is paved and was well maintained with only a few patches of ice/snow on the route.  It's worth stopping at Braeburn Lodge to pick up one of their famous (and ginormous) cinnamon buns; the lodge is also a checkpoint on the Yukon Quest.  

About 20kms north of Carmacks is the Five Finger Rapids viewpoint.  The rapids are mentioned in Jack London's 'Call of the Wild' and were one of the most dangerous sections of the Yukon River journey undertaken by gold prospectors during the Klondike Rush.  There are a series of steps down to the river, but these were not accessible in winter.

Things to Do in Dawson City

Arriving in Dawson is like arriving on the set of a Western movie; it looks and feels like a film set, until you realise that the buildings are real and still in active use as hotels, bars, shops, restaurants, and homes.
We stayed at the Downtown Hotel (which appears to have been taken over by Coast Hotels since we stayed).  The Downtown is famous as the home of the Sourtoe cocktail, which is served with a preserved human toe.  Unfortunately the hotel bar didn't allow children, so we missed out on that cultural experience!  In fact finding places that did allow children was pretty difficult in Dawson in the winter, but I'm sure would be better in the main tourist season. The Eldorado Hotel did allow kids, and we had a couple of nice meals in their Bonanza Dining Room. Bonton and Co was a really cool cafe/bar/eatery, with great small plates and charcuterie, which was also kid friendly.

While in Dawson you must take a drive (or hike if you're feeling fit) up to the Midnight Dome.  People have been gathering on this hilltop overlooking Dawson City to watch the midnight sun for hundreds of years.  Dome Road winds its way up the hill to almost the very top of the 887m hill, so it's a popular view point.

If you are lucky enough to be here at the right time, you can also cross the mighty Yukon river from Dawson City to West Dawson over the ice bridge, which is a cool experience.  There's not much in West Dawson, apart from a few off-grid cabins and a campsite, but it is the start of the Top of the World Highway which continues on to Alaska.  The George Black ferry runs a similar route once 'break-up' is over.

It's also worth a trip out to Dredge No4; a well preserved example of the mining dredges which used to ply the Yukon River in search of gold.  It was closed when we visited, so we couldn't get onboard, but was still worth the short drive up the mining road.

Dredge No4 in winter

Dawson City is also home to Robert Service and Jack London's cabins, and both are worth a visit.  Robert Service was a British immigrant to Canada; a banker by trade, he spent large periods of his life travelling Canada writing poetry and became known as the 'Bard of the Yukon' because of his poems inspired by the Klondike Goldrush.  The American author Jack London actually lived about 120kms south of Dawson, but his cabin was reconstructed here using some of the original timbers.

After two nights in Dawson, which felt like enough in the off season, we headed back down the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse.  

Our final night in the Yukon was spent in the Moose Cabin at Caribou RV Park, a cozy cabin which makes a great last stop due its proximity to the airport.  They also provide a lovely hamper of Yukon goods, on request, which we actually picked up early and took up to Sky High.

The Spell of the Yukon

We were definitely taken in by the 'Spell of the Yukon', and can't wait to go back this summer.